Habersham Soup Kitchen celebrates 25 years of service
The Habersham Soup Kitchen, located in Clarkesville, celebrated Wednesday a quarter century of service to the community.
"We have been doing this for 25 years," said Habersham Soup Kitchen General Manager Hawk Smessaert. "I felt I had to do something more to make God feel good about me."
Over 25 years ago, after retiring and moving south from Illinois, Smessaert and Habersham Soup Kitchen Chief Executive Officer Sharon Smessaert began looking for a way to give back to the community. The couple began working with Meals on Wheels, traveling from home to home to deliver food to those in need.
"There are an awful lot of people around the country that are hungry," Hawk Smessaert said.
However, traveling to and from each house began to take a toll on the couple, so the two decided to join along side a few others and help create a soup kitchen for Habersham County.
Now, serving over 40 people for lunch each day, the soup kitchen has over 100 rotating volunteers who take time out of their day to help cook and serve food.
They began serving simple meals, but according to Sharon Smessaert, the Habersham Soup Kitchen now serves a variety of hot meals for those in need around the community to enjoy. Still, if someone's health prevents them from traveling to the location in Clarkesville, the Smessaerts have a few volunteers who are willing to deliver the food right to someone's door.
"All of the volunteers are trained to treat these people like they have never been treated before," Hawk Smessaert said.
However, most of these volunteers can only work so often, so they are constantly looking for more volunteers. Even Hawk and Sharon Smessaert's son, Allan Smessaert, has moved down to Clarkesville to help out.
"We need more volunteers," said Sharon Smessaert. "We don't get any government money. We don't get any grants. It all comes from the community."
The Habersham Soup Kitchen receives food and funding in three different ways – local churches and schools, the Foodbank of Northeast Georgia and donations from individuals. However, these donations do not always fill the need, so occasionally, they have to purchase some of the food from a local grocery store.
Still, the Smessaerts continue to try and improve the soup kitchen. Allan Smessaert is currently trying to make the Habersham Soup Kitchen ecologically friendly and lessen the amount of waste they produce.
Sharon Smessaert also said she is hoping to host an open house in April to showcase all the work they are putting into the soup kitchen. She said she would like to see a cookout where they can use their new charcoal grill to serve the people.
As for the future of the Habersham Soup Kitchen, Allan Smessaert said they are also planning on making the location look more appealing by planting flowers and making more use of the picnic tables that sit just behind the building.
"I'm sure we will be here for a while," Sharon Smessaert said.
For more information about the Habersham Soup Kitchen or to find out how to volunteer, call the Smessaerts at 706-754-6539 or stop by their Clarkesville location on Ritchie Street.